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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Open Fourth vs Closed Fourth


dido

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Background: My Saturday/Sunday teacher prefers that we use an open fourth position, saying that few people have the natural rotation to use a closed fourth position in a productive way.

 

However, my W/F teacher came over to me last week and said that I should use a closed fourth because I have the turnout for it and it would be better for me.

 

I imagine that they are both right, I am curious to hear other peoples thoughts about the advantageous of each stance.

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Left to my own designs, I don't use fourth for grand plié at the barre anymore, so the issue at that point is moot for me. Now, fourth position opposite fifth (fourth croisé) is absolutely necessary for all the other body positions, especially when extended in developpé, so I don't shortchange students on getting it absolutely right. Open fourth (fourth opposite first, or even more so) is scarcely used for anything these days, so I only include it as a matter of historical interest.

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Agree. My suggestion would be to use the open 4th ONLY if you HAVE to do a grand plié in that position. I don't do grand in 4th either. Ever.

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Just to add an anecdote from a student point of view and recent experience in working with fourth position: last week in one class we were doing that standard pirouette combination which included that pretty standard step - chassé pas de bourré into fourth then pirouette en dehors. When turning to the left (ie right leg in front) my teacher noticed that I was using a very open fourth, and in her view not crossing over enough into fourth opp. fifth. When I paid attention to crossing my fourth over more correctly, I could turn better, and doubles to the left (turning to the left is not my forté) were much more easily achievable! I've been told I've got reasonable turn out (especially on the right side), so can get the rotation in a closed fourth, but in pirouette preparation from fourth, I don't think it was just about rotation, but about getting sufficient torque to make the en dehors turns really whip around.

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Some people do pirouettes better from an open fourth. I've recently read in a dance imagery book that open fourth is better for pirouettes. Also, as far as the developpe devant goes, I am working with a teacher now who teaches it a little more open, as though it was from the open fourth. I think it helps keep the working hip down. Another teacher I've had before taught fouette turns with the leg coming devant in a more open manner. It helped to keep us from overcrossing when doing fouettes consecutively. The director of the nearby dance company just got back from teaching for a year at the Chicago Ballet, where they use the Balanchine Method. She decided to adopt their method of beginning a pirouette in an open fourth with the back leg straight.

So what's the verdict? I would say try all ways that you're taught, and ask the teacher why it is he/she prefers that way, and then decide which way you can do it better yourself.

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Sorry, Myfairlady, but I think the open fourth, in a pirouette preparation, looks really awful, and I don't believe that is what Balanchine or anyone else intended. It is not good for anyone, but particularly a female dancer. As far as the leg not being in front of your center in a devant extension, I find that also totally unacceptable.

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No, no, and no! :)

 

Balanchine did not propound an open fourth preparation for pirouettes, merely one that gave a demi-plié to the front leg and a straightened leg to the rear. As the Master is no longer present to give guidance to his advices, odd bits have become distorted out of all reality by his latter-day disciples. Stanley Williams often taught the open-fourth preparation at SAB, but he taught a croisé just as often. People have been cheating on technique and claiming "It was Balanchine's Last Words" and it's about time the practice were called to order.

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So right, Hans. and we have come a long way in just the few years that this board has been open. I don't know if they have survived the long trail from 1997 to now, but it strikes me that I was having to defend Balanchine against OVER crossing fourth and fifth positions. I swear if I see Damian Woetzel take another Danish preparation and another Russian pirouette, I'll stand up in the audience like the old Danish teacher and shout, "You must not do that!"

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Oh, the overcrossing occurred when I was there, too. The thinking was that if crossing toe-to-heel was good, overcrossing was better! :devil: From what you just wrote, I take it Balanchine did not necessarily want over-crossed positions all the time, but that was how we did it at SAB in the late 90's. :)

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Yup! That's right. It had gone sour even then. A lot can happen to an artist's oeuvre when he's not there to defend it, or even fiddle with it. In fact, I think that's what happened with Balanchine. He died in mid-fiddle.

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